Photographer and author Roger Caras once said, “dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” It’s a quote that’s relatable to every dog owner, and a testament to how these four-legged friends find a way into our hearts and fill our days with love. That love stays with us even when our dogs do not.
This is the crux of “Jasper the Wonder Dog,” written by Richard Halliday in honor of his beloved pet. This poignant tale packs 12 years of love and adventure into 52 pages, giving us a glimpse into the deep connection between Jasper and his family. While the story is bittersweet, it reassures fellow dog owners that we’re not alone when it comes to these feelings of loss and remembrance.
“Jasper the Wonder Dog” begins with an introduction to the titular character and his rocky start to life. When Jasper was just one year old, he was abandoned by his first owners and left to wander the Southern Californian desert. Thankfully, he was spotted and brought to Morningstar’s Animal Rescue, where the volunteers cared for him as he recovered. Once Jasper was available for adoption, the Hallidays drove over two hours to meet him. As soon as they met Jasper, the Hallidays knew then and there that he’d be joining their family.
With this new lease on life, Jasper quickly took to his new parents and even became their new travel companion. The author chronicles the countless trips that the trio embarked on — from the 17-Mile Drive to Phoenix, Arizona. Over the dozen years that Jasper lived with his family, he’d had a lifetime of adventures. Still, it’s never easy saying goodbye to a pet. The epilogue of the book goes over Jasper’s last day and the final goodbye he has with his parents. It’s a somber scene, the emotion palpable through the page — but along with the sadness, the Hallidays’ love for Jasper is more than apparent. That love shines on long after his death, immortalized in this book and in the memories of their adventures together.
LIFE THROUGH A DOG’S EYES
“Jasper the Wonder Dog” isn’t a light read, literally or emotionally — — and that’s a good thing. When it comes to discussing a pet’s lifespan with young children, parents often feel at a loss for how to start the conversation. While no book can make the discussion truly easy, a picture book that details the full range of emotions can remind kids that their pet’s passing is only one part of the circle of life. For all the grief associated with that loss, they can feel reassured that they gave their pet a full life and years of wonderful experiences.
When it comes to the writing of the book, the text mirrors the weighty conversation. The book is for stronger readers, with paragraphs detailing Jasper’s adventures. The writing is still accessible for children, however, thanks to the fact that a majority of the story is from Jasper’s point of view. As he walks around life on four paws, sniffing everything in sight, his unique perspective gives us a humorous glimpse into the inner lives of dogs and how their antics look through their own eyes. His perspective also brings a lightness to the book to balance out the heavy subject matter.
Ultimately, “Jasper the Wonder Dog” is far more than a children’s book about loss. It encompasses not just Jasper’s passing, but also the happiness and love that he received thanks to his family. As much as the Hallidays brought love into Jasper’s life, Jasper gave it back to them tenfold. This book serves as a memorial to this incredible soul that touched their lives — a true wonder do